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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Nobody wants to work out in the West. It's all killing and drinking and playing poker."
The genre may have been winding down in 1972, but Giancarlo Santi's The Grand Duel aka The Big Showdown aka Hell's Fighters is a superior serving of spaghetti that's a lot of fun. Lee Van Cleef is on great form as the ex-marshal acting as unlikely protector for Alberto Dentice's escaped killer ("He doesn't look like a murderer." "The thing is, my dear, what matters is...
Published on 4 July 2012 by Trevor Willsmer

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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars VERY GOOD QUALITTY BRAND NEW REGION ONE
KEOMA WAS OK BUT GRAND DUEL WAS NOT TOO BAD I WATCHED THEM ONCE AND IT'S ENOUGH THANK YOU ANYWAY
Published 16 months ago by Poria


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Nobody wants to work out in the West. It's all killing and drinking and playing poker.", 4 July 2012
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spaghetti Western Double Feature: Grand Duel [Blu-ray] [1976] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
The genre may have been winding down in 1972, but Giancarlo Santi's The Grand Duel aka The Big Showdown aka Hell's Fighters is a superior serving of spaghetti that's a lot of fun. Lee Van Cleef is on great form as the ex-marshal acting as unlikely protector for Alberto Dentice's escaped killer ("He doesn't look like a murderer." "The thing is, my dear, what matters is that he kills like one."), determined to bring him back to the town whose corrupt patriarch he's been convicted of murdering despite the best efforts of a slew of scuzzy competing bounty hunters. Naturally Dentice (billed here as Peter O'Brien) is innocent, framed by the three corrupt Saxon brothers who run the town - fey white-clad and pockmarked Adam (Klaus Grunberg), angry sheriff Eli (Marc Mazza) and the smoothly ambitious new patriarch David (Horst Frank), who sees the town and Dentice's silver mine as the key to bigger things because "In a violent country, he who seizes today controls tomorrow." Only Eli seems bothered about finding out who really killed their father, but he's just as content as the others to get rid of both Dentice and Van Cleef, despite the latter being the only one who really knows who fired the fatal shot.

In his customary black attire, Van Cleef's bastard with a star on his chest is the kind of unflappable laidback anti-hero who just hangs his travelling bag on a bounty hunter's gun when facing him down. By contrast Dentice is the more athletic and occasionally intense of the two, who only have their apparent incorruptibility in common - one is too old to sell himself, the other is too young. It hits most of the genre staples, from cold blooded killings, the odd massacre of innocents, the amusing cat-and-mouse games between the two protagonists before they bond and a repeated flashback that gradually reveals more as the film progresses, but while it's nothing we haven't seen before, it's carried off with surprising wit and imagination, as well as a very strong visual sense that benefits greatly from Mill Creek's surprisingly excellent remastered 2.35:1 widescreen transfer of the English dubbed version on their Region A-locked Blu-ray double-bill with Keoma. It even includes the trailer, like the print of the film itself bearing the title The Big Showdown. Surprisingly enjoyable.

The spaghetti western was on its last legs when Enzo G. Castellari made Keoma aka The Violent Breed in 1976 (the film even suffered the ignominy of being the supporting feature to Young Lady Chatterley), but the film earns top marks for oddness even in a genre that took surreal turns. Famously written as they were going along, the plot is fairly standard, with Franco Nero's Indian, the sole survivor of a massacre who was raised by William Berger's rancher, returning to his hometown of Skiddoo City to find it suffering a plague caused by industrial pollution of the local wells and under the thumb of the local mine owner with the help of Keoma's three half-brothers who used to regularly beat him up as a boy because pa loved him more than them. His half-brothers may want to put a stop to his balderdash and shenanigans - and they really do say lines like "We've got to put a stop to his shenanigans" - but for much of the film Keoma seems more interested in looking for answers to life's questions and, possibly, some buttons for his constantly open shirt, while an old witch who looks like she's on her way to meet her two sisters and have a quick word with Macbeth occasionally wanders along to talk about destiny in deserted ghost towns as the wind blows doors back and forth atmospherically and the two find themselves watching the odd flashback. Naturally there's some killing of disposable henchmen along the way, including a neat `four cents' bit of business, before he finally takes back the town with the help of Woody Strode's drunken freed slave (who takes his bow and arrows from The Professionals out of mothballs for the occasion) - only for the locals to crucify him and let his half-brothers take over, leading to yet another showdown that's crosscut with a woman giving birth.

But the plot's not what gives the film it's notoriety in some circles, nor is the fact that it's possibly the greenest looking western ever made or even the look-alikes for Donald Sutherland and Ralph Fiennes in the supporting cast: it's the score - or more appropriately, since Guido and Maurizio De Angelis' music is pretty decent, the songs. Apparently Castellari and Nero wanted a Leonard Cohen-Bob Dylan sound along the lines of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. What they got were lyrics co-written by one-time failed Tory Party leader and Prime Minister wannabe Ian Duncan Smith's sister and sung, often out of key, by a Joan Baez-alike and a gravel voiced Italian man who clearly had difficulty pronouncing some of the English words. But more than bad singing, it offers a demented chorus on what we're seeing or what is going to happen later in the film, reaching it's apex with the immortal "Theyz mah favva/An my bruddas and me/Tell me now, far-tha/Why they hate me soooo/How I wound up/How I'm in dis mess." And for much of the film it's laid on with a trowel in industrial strength quantities, making it a relief when the big battle at the end is played out completely without music.

Somehow, possibly because of the eccentricity, it just about hangs together, the demented score even growing on you if only to see how much more bizarre it can get. And, while it lacks the extras from Blue Underground's DVD release (only an international trailer is included on the Blu-ray), Mill Creek's Region A-locked disc offers an excellent 2.35:1 widescreen transfer of the English-language version that makes the most of the film's schizophrenic photography (superb in the night scenes, rather blander in many of the early daylight ones).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great value set, even at it's current price..., 23 Dec 2013
By 
A. Moncrieff (up your a s s) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spaghetti Western Double Feature: Grand Duel [Blu-ray] [1976] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
I bought this when it was under £3, and shipping, but even at it's current £5 I must recommend it. It contains two absolutely solid spaghetti westerns, in pretty good (but budget line) hi-def presentations. Released alongside Spaghetti Western 2: Last Gun & Four Dollars of [Blu-ray] [2011] [US Import] (which I also recommend), this one is definitely the one to get. (THIS BLU-RAY IS REGION A LOCKED. Check you can play Region A blu-rays on your player...)

It contains two later Spaghetti Westerns - Enzo Castellari's wonderful KEOMA (1976), and Giancarlo Santi's THE GRAND DUEL (1972), aka. Storm Rider or The Big Showdown, not to be confused with the slightly superior Big Gundown [Blu-ray] [1966] [US Import], also starring Lee Van Cleef.

THE GRAND DUEL is a little more slow and thoughtful than many films in the genre but not by a large margin - director Santi was Sergio Leone's assistant director on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West, and clearly knows how to make this kind of thing work. The black and white flashbacks are total cinema and the staging of the action is always engaging. If you look carefully, Lee Van Cleef appears to be wearing the same wardrobe as Colonel Mortimer in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, which makes nice continuity for those of us who like to pretend all spaghetti westerns occupy the same mythological west. Cinematography, music, direction are all top notch and most of acting is good too.

KEOMA is unashamed action western fantasy. Franco Nero, who of course played the title role in Django Newly Re-mastered in HD ALL REGIONS [Blu-ray], plays the title role again - Keoma is a half-white, half-native who successfully transverses both worlds with compassion and superior marksmanship. Here he's accompanied by Woody Strode (from the incredible opening of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and VIGILANTE) as a former slave and friend of Keoma's, and a put-upon prostitute played by the unbelievably gorgeous Olga Karlatos, who we of course remember from the infamous splinter scene in Lucio Fulci's Zombie [Blu-ray] [1979] [US Import] and her meatier role in his latter film Murder Rock [1984] (REGION 1) (NTSC) [DVD] [US Import]. Again, the acting is good, the direction and scripting wonderful, and even if I dislike the Conan-esque re-staging of Jesus' crucifixion on a wagon wheel, you've got to love the stormy, rainy, muddy atmosphere that scene and others around it deliver.

Fans of Italian cinema will surely note that one of the evil half-brothers (the one who looks like an Italian Donald Sutherland circa 1978) is dubbed by the same English-speaking voice as Al Cliver in Zombie and all the other Lucio Fulci horror pictures he appeared in.

However, if there's one part of this movie I have to be hesitant about it's the music - while I enjoyed the hell out of it, it is definitely the aspect of this movie most likely to raise a chuckle from a modern audience. How to describe it? Well it's fairly easy - imagine a vocal based spaghetti western score composed and sung by a young Kate Bush, who takes up most of the singing duties until what is apparently Arnold Schwarzenegger joins her in a hilarious karaoke duet! I challenge you not to picture that when you hear this music.

Both films are presented in their native 2.35:1 cinemascope aspect ratio (that is, black bars at the top and bottom on a widescreen TV) with lossless stereo. The presentation on GRAND DUEL is far, far better than you'd expect for a budget-priced release of such an obscure film - detail is astonishing and if it's not a transfer from the camera negs, you'd never know it. KEOMA is a bit more problematic - it has the same digital scanner noise present on many Italian home releases - both the Blue Underground and UK DJANGO blu-rays, Arrow film's TENEBRAE and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, Blue Underground's ZOMBIE disc... However, it never especially bothered me - this is still clearly hi-def, much better than the DVD was, and very watchable. Audio on both is better than you'd expect - it's lossless but remember this is a dub, with not a single location sound recorded. Tinny is the order of the day, except for those wonderful scores.

Standard def trailers are the only extras. I highly recommend this disc to the spaghetti western fan - you'll like at least one of the movies, probably both. I may be somewhat controversial here and state I actually like both on par with Corbucci's DJANGO, if not up to the standard of Leone's wonderful films.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars VERY GOOD QUALITTY BRAND NEW REGION ONE, 19 July 2013
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This review is from: Spaghetti Western Double Feature: Grand Duel [Blu-ray] [1976] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
KEOMA WAS OK BUT GRAND DUEL WAS NOT TOO BAD I WATCHED THEM ONCE AND IT'S ENOUGH THANK YOU ANYWAY
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